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PANTHERS WEDNESDAY NOTEBOOK: Panthers Top Line Struggles Without Versteeg ... Sens in Town

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

A big topic of conversation before the season started was whether the Panthers top line could repeat its contributions of last season.

With Kris Versteeg out the first four games (he could return off the IR for Saturday's game against the Flyers), Florida's top line has not done much of anything.

Center Stephen Weiss and left winger Tomas Fleischmann have started each of the first three games with different right ringers. In the opener it was Mike Santorelli with Scottie Upshall and Tomas Kopecky following suit.

Weiss said having different players isn't an excuse to he and Fleischmann's slow start. Weiss had an assist in the opener but nothing since; Fleischmann assisted on Kopecky's goal Tuesday and also had one in the opener.

"This is the NHL. These are world-class players and it's easy to play with all these guys,'' Weiss said. "Verteeg is a great hockey player and [Fleischmann] and myself miss him for sure. But life goes on and we have to make it work without him.''

-- The Panthers did not make an official roster move Wednesday to replace defenseman Michael Caruso who broke his arm early in Tuesday's loss. Caruso, 24, was playing in his second career NHL game when he got hurt.

Kevin Dineen said the Panthers aren't expected to have Erik Gudbranson back until sometime next month. Gudbranson had surgery in September after injuring his shoulder wakeboarding near his hometown of Ottawa.

Even with Caruso out, Florida still has seven defenseman. Tyson Strachan or Keaton Ellerby are expected to be scratched Thursday.

THURSDAY: SENATORS AT PANTHERS
When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM-560
The series: Ottawa leads 40-26-3
The game: The Senators continue to have Florida's number as Ottawa won its sixth straight on home ice against the Panthers 4-0 on Monday night. The Senators have also won 10 of the previous 11 meetings between the two. Craig Anderson, who picked up his 20th shutout on Monday, starts again for Ottawa. Florida's Jose Theodore stopped 32 of his first 34 shots faced before giving up two late ones in Monday's loss. The Sens are 2-0 this season and haven't played since Monday; the Panthers are playing their fourth game in six nights.

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